Cryptojacking is on the rise. In fact, it’s now one of the fastest-growing types of cybercrime. And here’s the real kicker: you don’t have to be involved in cryptocurrency to become a victim. In fact, just about as idyllic as Satoshi’s white paper, cryptojacking is completely blind to status, wealth, or centralized organizations.
According to Steve Morgan, Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Cybersecurity Ventures, “Cryptojacking is one of the fastest-growing cybercrimes globally, and the resulting theft of cryptocurrency is incalculable at this time. But, cybercrooks beware, law enforcement agencies have ramped up … the surveillance, capture, arrest, and prosecution of financial cybercriminals … and the online perpetrators can expect stiff sentences for cryptojacking.”
What Is Cryptojacking Again?
If it sounds faintly familiar, that’s probably because you heard about electric car manufacturer Tesla getting cryptojacked back in February. Or perhaps about the Smominru Miner hijacking over half a million computers to mine millions of dollars worth of Monero.
Cryptojacking is where your computer or other device (smartphones, IoT devices, and servers have also fallen victim) are infected with malware in the form of mining botnets. They feed off your CPU (central processing unit) to mine cryptocurrency – in many cases, without you even knowing.
Relative to other aggressive forms of cybercrime like data theft, DDoS attacks, and ransomware, cryptojacking is a lot less harmful to the victim. Of course, you don’t want your device to run slowly, or malfunction beyond repair. You don’t want to end up paying a high electricity bill either.
But, it’s better than having your darkest secrets splashed all over the internet or your bank account drained. That said, as the menace of cryptojacking increases, so does the severity of the punishment for perpetrators getting caught.
Mining botnets use your device’s power to mine cryptocurrency, usually Monero. There are already thousands of websites infected with mining malware. If you happen upon one of them, you may notice your computer suddenly running very slowly. In this case, the easiest way out is to simply close your browser. End of story.
It’s downloading the vicious code onto your machine that really causes a problem. And it’s much easier to do that than you might think. For example, a free theme from a content platform like WordPress may have hidden code inside.
You can also get infected directly from the site, or through phishing emails or online advertisements. And no, you don’t have to visit a crypto site to get it.
So, if you want to stay safe while browsing online, here are the top 7 ways to protect yourself against cryptojacking.
7. Watch Your Speed
If you’re working off an old laptop, it can be hard to measure your computer speed. But if your device significantly slows down when you’re on a certain site, close it and check again. With a little luck, it’s just the infected website and the problem has stopped.
But if your machine is infected, running slowly, or your fan is on overdrive, be sure to get it checked out. This applies to your smartphone too. If its battery drains faster than usual or you notice it overheating when not in use, it could have been cryptojacked.
6. Use Antivirus Software
Don’t rely on the cheapest or free options, but if you do, make sure that your antivirus software is updated and can detect and remove mining malware.
4. Download an Anti-Mining Plugin
There are several plugins out there that are designed to detect and prevent mining malware. Ones for Chrome include Nocoin and MinerBlock.
3. Use Adblocking Software
If you want to err on the side of caution, use adblocking software, as in many cases, the vector may be an infected banner ad.
2. Browse with Opera
Change your main browser to Opera. It now has a built-in anti-mining adblocker to thwart cryptojacking attempts.
1. Practice Good Cyber Hygiene
This is really about going back to basics. Most of us choose convenience over security. We leave our computers on, share our passwords, click on things we shouldn’t. Sometimes just being more responsible online can save you from an attack.
Don’t open suspicious emails. Never click on a link you don’t trust or open an unknown attachment. And stay away from free content programs if possible.
Cryptojacking isn’t going to cause you too many problems other than a slight headache and a bigger power bill. But if a mining botnet can breach your system and enter undetected, that means your system is vulnerable and the next virus to break in could be a lot worse.